Celebrate the magic of spring with these crispy and buttery Cherry Blossom Cookies. Topped with edible salt-pickled sakura buds, these cookies are infused with the heavenly fragrance and flavor of Japanese cherry blossoms.
Spring in Japan is so beautiful and magical. All the hills and parks are covered with pink and white cherry blossom trees, and many of them adorn city streets as well.
To celebrate the beauty of cherry blossoms, I shared my Cherry Blossom Milk Pudding recipe last week, and this week I want to share Cherry Blossom Cookies with you.
Cherry Blossom Cookies with Salt Pickled Sakura
Many of you probably didn’t know that cherry blossoms (sakura in Japanese) are actually edible. In Japan, we preserve them with salt so they can be used in various dishes. However, it’s not as simple as just sprinkling salt over the blossoms. The whole preserving process takes place over several weeks.
Tender young buds are hand-picked, washed, and dried. They are then soaked in ume plum vinegar for several days before being dried completely. Finally, they are packed in jars or packages with salt.
You can purchase these salt-pickled cherry blossoms from this Japanese online store that ships internationally (this company also sells them on Amazon), or another brand on Amazon. You might be able to find it at Japanese grocery stores when in season. You can also purchase it from Weee!
Buttery, Slightly Salty, Cherry Blossom Cookies
These cherry blossom cookies are butter cookies, or you may know them as shortbread cookies or sable cookies. They are unleavened cookies, which means that leavening agents s
They consist of just butter, sugar, and flour and are often flavored with vanilla. We use salt-pickled cherry blossoms in this recipe, so it adds just enough saltiness essence to the rich, buttery cookies. You can smell and taste the cherry blossoms, which is the highlight of these cookies.
The texture of the cookies is “crisp” rather than chewy or soft cookies. It is commonly necessary to chill the dough for easy handling. The chilled dough will give clean, sharp edges to the cookies and holds its shape better in the oven.
Usually, for this type of cookie, you roll the dough into a cylindrical shape, chill, and then slice it into rounds (or roll out the dough, chill, and cut it out).
Powder Sugar vs. Granulated Sugar
I’ve made butter cookies with both sugars and they both work, so you can experiment and decide. I used powdered sugar for this recipe because I read some articles that granulated sugar in butter cookies would not dissolve completely while being baked. Given that butter cookies don’t contain liquid, the cookies would wind up with a rough texture.
Cake Flour vs. All Purpose Flour
Again, you can make butter cookies with flour. Butter cookies are meant to be somewhat crumbly because they have a high butter (fat) content. If you use all-purpose flour, they will be a little more sturdy than the ones made with cake flour (a mix of both would be best). Cake flour gives a light texture, and I think it fits better with this cherry blossom recipe. So I opted for cake flour for this recipe. In Japanese, we say this texture saku saku (サクサク).
White sparkling sugar can be replaced with granulated sugar. Sparkling sugar has larger grain so that it won’t melt and disappear while being baked. It adds a particular look as well as a nice crunch when you bite into it.
Recipes Using Salt-Pickled Cherry Blossoms
Use salt-pickled cherry blossoms this spring to make these delicious and pretty recipes! Happy spring!
Cherry Blossom Cookies
- ½ cup unsalted butter (½ cup of butter is 4 oz, 1 stick, or 8 Tbsp; at room temperature)
- 1 oz salt-pickled cherry blossoms (1 pack of this)
- 1 cup cake flour (1 cup should weigh 120 g; I strongly encourage you to weigh your flour; if you're using a cup measurement, please follow this method; otherwise, you may scoop more flour than you need; you can substitute an equal amount of this gluten-free flour or this gf flour)
- ⅛ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 large egg yolk (0.5 oz, 15 g per egg yolk)
- white sparkling sugar (this is a coarse sugar with larger grains than granulated sugar, so it won't melt and disappear; it also gives a nice look and crunch)
Before You Start…
- Please note that this recipe requires at least 2 hours of chilling time.
- Gather all the ingredients.
- If the unsalted butter is not at room temperature yet, cut it into smaller pieces so that it will soften faster. It’s important to soften the butter before we start.
To Prepare the Cherry Blossoms
- Separate the salt-pickled cherry blossoms into two groups: 1) The good flowers for decorating the cookies; and 2) 1 Tbsp (per batch of 16 cookies) of the damaged flowers for blending into the cookie dough.
- To remove the saltiness, soak the two groups of flowers in separate bowls of water for at least 30 minutes. Tip: Salt is used to preserve the sakura leaves and flowers, but it's too salty to consume them as is, so we always need to soak them in water to remove the excess salt.
- After 30 minutes, squeeze out the water from the damaged flowers and pat them dry with a paper towel.
- Then, mince the damaged flowers and set aside.
- Next, prepare the good flowers. Remove them from the soaking water, one stem at a time. As you do so, dip the flower head in the soaking water a few times so the petals point upward and lie in the same direction. Place it on a paper towel. Repeat with the rest of the cherry blossoms. When you're done, cover the flowers with another sheet of paper towel and gently pat dry. Set aside.
To Mix the Dough
- Sift the cake flour in a bowl and add the salt to the same bowl. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the softened butter until smooth and creamy.
- Add the powdered sugar and blend until soft and light, occasionally scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Add the egg yolk and mix well until combined.
- Add the minced cherry blossoms and blend well. Note: I've revised this recipe (3/4/23) to add the cherry blossoms to the dough before adding the flour; the video and the step-by-step pictures reflect the previous version of the recipe.
- Gradually add the sifted cake flour and salt to the bowl and stir until just blended. Tip: Do not overmix, or the dough will be tough.
To Form the Cookies
- Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on your work surface. Shape it into a cylinder, about 1½ inches (4 cm) in diameter. Tip: If the dough is too soft and sticky to roll, wrap it with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for 15–30 minutes. This will firm up the dough and allow you to roll it into a log shape.
- Wrap the dough log in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until firm, at least 2 hours. Optional: You can place the dough on a bed of rice while chilling. It’ll help keep the dough in a nice cylindrical shape, so your cookie slices won’t be flat on one side.
- After 2 hours, take out the dough log from the refrigerator and remove the plastic. Next, wrap the dough with a damp paper towel to wet its surface slightly. Of course, you can use the traditional method and brush egg wash on the dough, but the damp paper towel method works every time for me.
- In a tray that fits the cookie dough, sprinkle the white sparkling sugar. Remove the damp paper towel and roll the dough log in the sparkling sugar so that it adheres.
- With a sharp knife, slice the dough into rounds about ⅓ inch (7 mm) thick. You should get 16–18 cookie rounds from one log. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking liner. Leave about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of space between the rounds.
- Decorate the top of each cookie round with one or two reserved cherry blossoms, gently pressing them down so they adhere to the dough. Put the baking sheet with the cookies in the refrigerator for 10–15 minutes (or in the freezer for a short time) until firm and chilled. During this time, place the oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC). For a convection oven, reduce the cooking temperature by 25ºF (15ºC). Tip: If you don't chill the cookie dough, the butter will melt too quickly in the oven and the cookies will be flat.
- When the oven is preheated, take out the baking sheet from the refrigerator and bake the cookies at 350ºF (170ºC) for about 15 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes; then, carefully transfer them to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.
- You can keep the cookies in an airtight container and store in a cool place for at least 4 days. You can also freeze the unbaked logs of dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 months. Let the frozen logs sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before cutting and baking. Do not let the dough fully defrost.
- Fluff up the flour several times with a spoon.
- Using the spoon, sprinkle the flour into your dry measuring cup (the one that measures exactly a cup at the top).
- Scrape off the excess with a knife.